- Calling for Intermediality: Latin American Mediascapes
The contemporary Latin American mediascape is quickly becoming as complex—or even more so—than that of the United States, Western Europe, and East Asia. Twenty or thirty years ago, merely suggesting that there had to be a relationship between television and the cinema would typically elicit derisive laughter from practitioners and scholars alike. Now, however, almost everywhere in Latin America, there has been, on the side of practitioners, an absolute elision of these formerly impenetrable “borders,” brokered primarily—but not completely—through digital and Internet new technologies and, on the side of scholars, a begrudging acknowledgment that new practices need to be recognized and understood. In that context, this essay argues that different mediascapes in Latin America require a reboot of the critical and theoretical paradigms we deploy to understand Latin American cinema, television, and new media production (and the convergence of the three). Proposing that a framework focused on intermediality can open up new avenues for research on contemporary media practices, I also argue that intermediality can help us better understand the development and evolution of Latin American mediascapes and crucial moments in its historical trajectory.
In the past two decades “intermediality” has emerged as a significant research axis in media and arts theory, particularly in Europe and Canada, where there have been scores of conferences and publications devoted to its explication and application. Curiously, [End Page 135] there has been little interest in the intermedial in US media studies and markedly much less in cinema studies.1 In general, intermediality refers to the linkages and crossovers among media and artistic practices, but it also points to the intensification of these relationships with new digital media practices. As Ginette Verstraete explains in the introduction to a special issue of the Romanian journal Film and Media Studies dedicated to intermediality, critics have turned to the idea of the intermedial to help reconceptualize their traditional objects of study in relation to digital media: “Seeking out the borders of their disciplines and the crossovers with media studies, they explicitly position themselves in between margin and center, art and media.”2 Indeed, much of the work on intermediality has been undertaken outside of media studies proper, in studies of narrative, performance, art, and philosophy.3
Thinking about intermediality is related to but different from discussions of media convergence (the web of interactions among media in increasingly complex contemporary production and consumption landscapes) or remediation (how media absorb other media in their evolution), because intermediality presumes that there is a specificity to different media, even when they are being radically put into question.4 As Lars Elleström put it:
If all media were fundamentally different, it would be hard to find any interrelations at all; if they were fundamentally similar, it would be hard to find something that is not already interrelated. Media, however, are both different and similar, and intermediality must be understood as a bridge between medial differences that is founded on medial similarities.5
Intermediality is also related to, but distinct from, transmediality, which refers more specifically to the translation of one medium into another and/or transmedial [End Page 136] narratives. Transmediality addresses the translation or transposition involved, for example, in the musical version of a novel or the poetic rendering of a painting, as well as narratives that span distinct media.
Rather than a theory per se, intermediality has been most productively utilized as a “research axis” or “research concept” that cuts across several arenas and identifies issues to be explored.6 As such, it refers primarily to ways of refocusing on particular research questions so as to encompass the links and overlaps among different media and art forms (and the disciplines within which we talk about them). One of the central motivating factors for the multiplication of intermedial research has undoubtedly been the accelerated proliferation of new media, seeming to demand new analytical frameworks, but another important motivator has been the appeal of its inherent interdisciplinarity and its potential to produce new media historiographies that elucidate the unstable relation of media to each other, and the historicity of these relations.7